Picks and Pans Review: I Wish This War Were Over

updated 05/07/1984 AT 01:00 AM EDT

originally published 05/07/1984 AT 01:00 AM EDT

by Diana O'Herir

A California poet who teaches at Mills College, O'Herir, 62, has produced a most moving, original first novel. Her story takes place near the end of World War II, and her narrator is a 19-year-old girl with a much-loved younger sister and a mother who is an alcoholic. On the train from Oakland, Calif. to Washington, D.C. to rescue her mother, the narrator runs into one of Mom's old boyfriends. He is a "good storyteller. He had a true narrative gift, suspenseful touches in the right places." The same can be said for O'Herir. Her plot is eventful, imaginative; her writing cries out to be quoted. Here are a few samples: "I thought, I wish you would drink gin or something, Mama. Bourbon smells like the green and purple wrath of God." And: "It helps to have several things to worry about at the same time. It's like the Indian remedy for pain—stick your hand in the fire, forget your toothache." O'Herir's writing shows a perception and clarity all too rare in fiction. Her heroine does terrible things, but never for one minute does the reader not love her and understand. (Atheneum, $13.95)

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